The project

Our knowledge of ecology of migrants in their wintering grounds is extremely poor and severely hampers our ability to explain these declines and conserve this group of species. We lack even basic information about when birds arrive, the habitats they use and how they move around Africa.

The aim is to understand how Palearctic-African migrants use and move around the different vegetation zones found in West Africa, ranging from the semi-desert Sahelian region in Burkina Faso to the lush tropical rainforest in southern Ghana, and whether habitat change may impact them on their wintering grounds.

During the temperate winter of 2009/2010, using point count methodology and mist-netting, we recorded migrants along a degradation gradient at five different stations on a north-south transect. In 2010/2011 we plan to re-visit these sites as well as roving further afield to get a broader picture of migrant habitat use.

Monday-Thursday 20th - 23rd Feb: East to the Volta region

Would you believe it, but our best efforts were yet again unsuccessful. We used two nets, two play-backs, and moved the nets around to exactly where the birds have been hanging out. With little sign of any change in the overall behaviour of the wood warblers (suggesting we’re not going to catch one any time soon), we headed off in the afternoon for some more ground-truthing of the aforementioned model. We headed Eastwards this time, and into the Volta region. We arrived late into Hohoe, found some great digs at the Taste Lodge, and planned our assault on the wood warbler sites.

Through Tuesday to Thursday, we covered 6 sites and again these largely followed the pattern of predicted presence and absence. Quite a variety of habitats were encountered, from some seemingly unspoilt forested hillsides on the Togo border, to burnt wooded savannahs in the floodplains near the Kalakpa game reserve, and some heavily managed farmlands closer to the shores of the Volta. Seeing so many savannah species this far south was a good indicator that we were in the Dahome gap – an area of relatively low rainfall, dividing the wetter forests in western GThana from those of Ghana’s neighbours to the East. Lots of very feisty Senegal eremomelas here, twittering and chasing each other all over the place,and amongst the white helmetshrikes, a female which most confidingly sat tight on its nest.

After a final heavy-rain-interrupted survey on the Thursday pm, we headed back to Eastern region to meet up with the nightingale team who had wrapped up at Nsoatre, in the end racking up 12 “data-logged” birds. After a summer spent somewhere in Europe, these birds should hopefully be site-faithful enough to return to the same scrub next winter. When the birds are recaptured, the data loggers will reveal a wealth of information about where the birds have been to breed, including which route they took to get there! Very exciting stuff.

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